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Posts Tagged ‘Discovery’

Endeavour which flew its final flight on STS-134 is now in OPF-2 (Orbiter Processing Facility 2) where it is being readied for being turned over to the California Science Museum in September 2012.

Pete Crow in the Commander seat on the flight deck of the Space Shuttle Eneavour on March 7, 2012. The photograph is by Tony Achilles of radio station WPKN in Bridgeport, CT.

As NASA did with the shuttle Discovery, the media was invited to have a look around on March 7, 2012 including visits to the flight deck.

Status of the three surviving orbiters (originally there were 5 — the first two, Columbia and Challenger were lost):

Endeavour — in early stages of preparation for Los Angeles
Discovery — goes to Smithsonian at Dulles Airport April 17, 2012
Atlantis — goes to Kennedy Space Center Visitors’ Center — building to house Atlantis is under construction

The Houston Johnson Space Center will get the shuttle mockup that has been at the Kennedy Space Center. It is on the dock at KSC in front of the Media Site 39 awaiting its barge ride to Galveston, Texas.

New York City will get, or may already have, the shuttle mockup that has been at the Smithsonian Museum at Dulles Airport.

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See my interview with Buddy McKenzie of the Space Alliance standing under the tail of the Endeavour on March 7 below:

DISCUSSION OF THE SHUTTLE TILES and challenges they presented to the NASA ground crews. This runs about five minutes.  Tony Achilles, WPKN in Bridgeport, Connecticut, shot this footage. This clip, which features Pete Crow interviewing Mr. McKenzie can also be found here. More of Mr. Achilles excellent footage of others events can also be found at this link.

NASA invites everyone associated with the shuttle, including the Media, to sign the walls of the White Rooms which will go to Museums. Pete’s signature is at the bottom of the Endeavour White Room wall on your right as you enter.

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.”petecrow/NASA” is jointly copyright © 2012, by Seine/Harbour® Productions, Studio City, CA, and by the Peter Michael Crow Trust.

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One of three engines in lifted and reinstalled in Discover the morning of December 5, 2011. The engines are not the actual engines that flew on Discovery although they look the same.

December 5, 2011 … today the first of the three engines of the Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) was reinstalled on the shuttle. It took about four hours. The other two engines were to be installed later in the week. Discovery will go to the Smithsonian at Dulles Airport, Washington, DC. She is expected to be sent there in April 2012.

Discovery by several estimates is now about 85-percent ready for the museum. In a few weeks she will be entirely ready and then they will figure out how to get her to Washington. Almost certainly she will be flown there on the back of a 747. Shuttles were returned to Florida on the back of one of two NASA Boeing 747s when they landed somewhere else besides Florida.

Discovery is expected to weigh about two-thirds of her fully tricked out flying weight of 190-tons because of all that has been removed from her. The 190-tons was base weight, without payload.
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Engine which is about to be placed back into Engine Slot #1 on the Shuttle Discovery.

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Rear of the Shuttle Discovery from high in OPF-1 (Orbiter Processing Facility #1). There were three OPFs — only two remain now that OPF-3 have been turned over to Boeing. A total of five operational shuttles were built, but because NASA never had more than four at any one time, only three OPFs were needed — one for three of the shuttles, while the fourth shuttle was either in orbit, or in the VAB or on the pad preparing for flight.

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The engine being replaced is in the center of the picture. The back of the shuttle is on the left. The bay doors of OPF-1 are on the right. OPF-1 is just a few yards from the Vehicle Assembly Building. OPF-2 is beside it, and OPF-3 is across the street.

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The tail of the shuttle Discovery is in top center of this photo. The engine, still on the carrier, is in the center of this photograph.

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This panel is on the starboard side, rear, of the shuttle and opens into the back end of the shuttle. Here assistants can help in the installation of the shuttle engines or in their removal.

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This is inside the rear of the shuttle. To the upper left the engine is being installed. A man, with his hand holding onto a railing, is seen in the center left of this picture.

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The engine is nearly installed. This picture was taken a moment after my photograph inside the rear of the shuttle was taken. A white room, where booties are required on feet, and id cards must be surrendered, is adjacent where the cargo bay of the shuttle is located. No one is allowed into OFP-1 with cell phones or any device, such as remote car door openers, which emit an electrical signal.

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This is the cargo bay of the Shuttle Discovery looking toward the front of the shuttle. We are on the starboard side looking toward the port side. With the shuttle program over, few reporters or photographers show up for NASA events. Only 178 registered for the November launch of the Mars Science Laboratory launch. Less than ten expressed interest in spending half a day in OPF-1 watching the engines be replaced — and only 5 photographers and reporters actually showed up.

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The media was given wide access to the shuttle, although they could not step on board. Here Pete Crow lies on his back under the front nose wheel of the shuttle and photographs the underside of the shuttle looking backward toward the tail. And, yes, those are his feet on the bottom right of the picture to give size perspective to this photograph.

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A conference room sits just off the back rear of the shuttle near the large entry doors.

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Entry to the OPFs is tightly controlled. Without a card, you can neither enter nor leave without triggering alarms. As you enter the OPF you are facing a desk where access is further controlled. Moreover, at strategic places, people sit with desks monitoring what tools are passing various points, logging them — and workers — in and out. Foreign objects inadvertently left on board the shuttle could have been fatal in space. This is a side view of the entry point desk. The shuttle is on our left, and the conference room (above) is on our right.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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Media visits to the Discovery on June 21, 2011, were not a crowded event. Media went onto Discovery's decks two at a time and had fifteen minutes or more to root around and explore. Carol Anne Swagler of The Grove Sun and Seine/Harbour® Productions is on the far right.

About these 19 Photos. On June 21, 2011, NASA invited about 85 members of the media to Florida to visit the Shuttle Discovery, now in High Bay Number 1 of the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) (OPF= hangar).

Each member of the media was assigned a one hour slot, and given 15 minutes on the decks, crawlways and bay inside the Discovery where a member of the Flow Team was available.

This was the second, and probably last time, general media will visit the Discovery before she goes to the Smithsonian Museum at Dulles International Airport early in 2012. In April, NASA also allowed selected members of the media into High Bay 1. At that time the dismantling of the Discovery’s recoverable parts and removal of hazmat materials, now well progressed, had not begun.

The Flight Deck of the Shuttle Discovery.

The formal name of the Discovery, the oldest survivor in the fleet, is “OV-103”. This stands for “Orbiter Vehicle, Number 3”.

In all five operational orbiters were built. In order they were Columbia (lost over Texas), Challenger (lost on liftoff), Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. Only the latter three orbiters survive.

The photos below were taken either by Peter Michael Crow or by Carol Anne Swagler on June 21, 2011 at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
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The nose wheel of the Discovery. The landing gear of the shuttle is dropped only seconds before touchdown because once the gear is dropped whatever lift the shuttle has, which is very little, is gone. Rightly, descent of the shuttle to landing is akin to watching a rock fall out of the sky. This photo is taken from under the shuttle looking toward the front. The insulating heat tiles are directly above, and above that, the crew compartment.


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Flight deck on the Discovery, and the Commander's lefthand seat. The windows were covered and therefore it was dark inside the flight deck and crew compartment. The five seats in the crew compartment had already been removed.


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The console to the right of the Commander. To command a shuttle, you must first ride in the second seat on a mission and spend a year or more training on the ground. To dock at the International Space Station (ISS), the commander gets out of his seat, turns around 180-degrees and, facing the orbiter bay and air lock, uses only two controls (shown below) to ease the shuttle to docking devises on the ISS.


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Carol Anne Swagler on flight deck of the Shuttle Discovery. Ms. Swagler shot both video and still photographs. Others had suggested, correctly, that flash would be needed on the shuttle decks. The schedule became more complicated as the day went on when two foreign wire service photographers showed up and pressured KSC public affairs staff (successfully) to be allowed onto the Discovery. Others also tried to squeeze additional members of their staffs into the tight schedule.


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There are two windows on the flight deck looking directly into the orbiter bay. In the forward end of the bay is the hatch where the shuttle docks with the ISS, and where astronauts have ingress and egress from the ISS and the shuttle by crawling through a small crawlway (shown below). To dock, the shuttle commander stands here, gazing out the left window. One of the two controls he uses to dock is shown -- it is the block handle just to the right of the lefthandside window. Both docking controls are shown in the next photograph.


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Both docking controls -- there are only two -- are shown here. The left hand docking control, the black knob to the left and just below the window, is smaller than the larger black handle to the right and below the window. Both levers are roughly on the same level. Just call me if you still can't find them. The shuttle commander docks by looking out this window. It takes the shuttle roughly two days after liftoff at Kennedy Space Center to catch up with and dock with the ISS about 200 miles above the Earth. The shuttle and the ISS orbit at about 18,000 miles an hour which takes 88-90 minutes per orbit. To land in Florida, the shuttle undocks and then does a de-orbit burn commonly over India or between India and Australia on the other side of the world. Once that de-orbit burn takes place the shuttle has no where else to go except KSC -- she is coming to the SLF at KSC. For the next 60 minutes the shuttle descends slowing, circling half of the world. Her speed declines from 18,000 mph to about 200 mph on landing. Pete has witnessed many landings in Florida and in California and says, "it never gets old; it gets me every time."


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The crawlway from the crew compartment to the orbiter bay and hatch. This is the crawlway crew uses to ingress and egress the ISS. This is Pete in the crawlway. Crawling is the only way to traverse it. Pete's jeans, belt buckle (lower left) and his feet wearing special booties suppied by NASA are visible. The view is toward the front of the shuttle. Directly above Pete is the hatch that docks with the ISS. Behind him is the orbiter bay -- his head actually is partly in the bay at this moment. The controls to open and close the hatch (photo below) are on his left and right. In the background in the crew compartment Carol Anne confers with a NASA Flow staff member in the Crew Compartment. The Flight Deck is the upper compartment; the crew compartment, the second of two shuttle decks, is directly below the flight deck. Entering the shuttle through a main hatch, you are on the Crew Deck. Access to the crawlway and the separate small ISS hatch is also located on the crew deck. To get to the flight deck you climb up a narrow ladder.


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ISS Docking/Hatch Controls -- used to open and close the hatch to the ISS. When Pete asked "what question do you wish someone would ask," a NASA tech replied "no one asks why the control to open the ISS hatch are upsidedown." So Pete asked and the guy told him, and now Pete has forgotten. Actually it has to do with how astronauts are lying when opening and closing the hatch. To us it looks like this photograph is upsidedown. To an astronaut in space, it looks just fine.


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This is the hatch to get to and from the ISS. The shuttle and the ISS docking devices are located just outside this hatch. To see the other wide of this hatch from the orbiter's bay, scroll down. The hatch is located toward the front of the shuttle and is accessed through a small crawlway. Orientation of this photo is toward top of the shuttle. The bottom of the shuttle with its insulating tile is directly opposite. This photo is taken by lying in the crawlway between the crew compartment and the orbiter's bay.


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The most common question crew and visitors alike ask is "where the bathroom?" Here's it is, just beyond this door on the crew deck adjacent to the main entrance hatch and to the right of the crawlway to the docking/ISS hatch. Got it? Now go use the restroom out in the hangar, second door on the left.


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The main desk at High Bay 1, OPF. There's nothing simple about servicing the orbiters. Every seven flights they had to be returned to Palmdale where they were manufactured and torn apart. The orbiters as built were extensively updated over their lives. Built to fly at least 100 times, none of the fleet of five flew anywhere near that number of flights. With only 135 flights for the entire fleet, the orbiters are being sent to museums with a lot of life left in them. What did in the program? The cost, and a lack of public interest. When President Barrack Obama visited Kennedy in April he and his family looked bored and stood around while being briefed with their arms folded and often were looking somewhere else.


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Safety signs are everywhere at Kennedy Space Center. No rings, keys, cellphones or anything in your pockets above the waist are allowed in the OPF. NASA was in the past in the business of doing the impossible. When President John Kennedy declared the US was going to the Moon in 1961, no one knew how to get there. When the US Air Force wanted an invisible plane, no one had any idea how to do it. This is what science does -- get a mission, get the money and then everybody stand back. Soon you're on the Moon. Soon you've got a plane invisible to radar. Current NASA officals, and perhaps Mr. Obama himself, apparently do not understand what science does or how it operates. When the second highest NASA offical spoke to Tweeters at KSC last year she declared that the Obama administration had canceled Constellation, the shuttle replacement, "because it doesn't work." The Tweeters, far more sophisticated than she imagined hooted and began yelling at her and she fled. Constellation was soon re-instated, but then killed again.


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Shuttle close-ups: A Nose you cannot help but love. This is the front nose of the shuttle. The cockpit/flight deck windows (shown below), not really visible in this picture. The windows are not behind the silver covering -- that is an optical illusion. The flight deck windows are at the top of this photograph, just below the white beam.


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Shuttle close-ups: Flight decks window, looking directly down. There are four front facing windows.


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Shuttle close-ups: Insulating tiles on the bottom of the shuttle. The hole in the middle of each tile is to check whether moisture has gotten in behind the tiles. The tiles are bonded to the shuttle, but the tiles will absorb great amounts of water if the seal is breached. This would endanger the shuttle. After landing every tile was carefully checked before the shuttle was sent into space again.


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NASA has been removing everything from the shuttle that might be of later use. The cost of purchasing engines for a later space project, for example, can be saved if the shuttle engines are moved and stored. In April when we visited the OPF the Discovery engines were still in place. Now, shown in this photo, they have been removed and stored. Mockups matching exactly the appearance of the engines and other parts will be on the shuttle when she arrives in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian in early 2012. Discovery will look the same -- but she will not be. This is a mild point of contention between NASA and the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian argues that by having a complete shuttle, exactly as flown, the shuttle will be available for later study. But that is not to be -- budget constraints and worries about availability of money for future space projects has made NASA wary and protective of what it has. NASA is keeping the shuttle engines and other parts. The Smithsonian gets painted plywood.


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Shuttle close-ups: The bay of the shuttle. The front of the shuttle is to our right; the back to our left. The docking hatch is roughly halfway up this photograph on the righthand side. The crew compartment and flight deck are to our right. The photo is taken standing beside, not on the shuttle itself.


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We were invited to sign our names on the wall as we left the Shuttle Discovery. Our signatures appear in the lower right of this photo.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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from the video

Preparing for Launch, and Launch
Video of Rollover from Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF = hangar), Lift-to-Mate in the Vehicle Assembly Building, Rollout to Launch Pad 39-A, and Launch
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Click the link. I mean it. Do it now. There is no sound until the launch in the final seconds. (this link courtesy of Dale Duckworth)
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from the video


Viewing Earth from the Shuttle Atlantis

After launch, go on board the Shuttle Atlantis and look down at the world
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HERE.
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(this link courtesy of Francie Marrs)

View both of these videos in Full Screen if you can.

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Where will the shuttles go?
How many were built?
How many shuttles survive?
How many mockups were built? — where are they?
What was OV-95? — where did it fly?

Five shuttles were built and three survive. The order in which they came into the fleet is as follows:

COLUMBIA = OV-102 … Columbia broke up as it was preparing to land and was lost, along with its entire crew, over southeastern Texas on February 1, 2003.

CHALLENGER == OV-99 … Challenger broke up and was lost, along with its entire crew, over the Atlantic Ocean shortly after launch on January 28, 1986.

DISCOVERY = OV-103 … the oldest surviving Orbiter will go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport early in 2012. Currently hazmat materials, useful instruments and other parts that may be of later use are being removed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Discovery has been in one of three hangars at Kennedy Space Center.

ATLANTIS = OV-104 … the second oldest surviving Orbiter, and the fourth of four originally built, will stay at the Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis will be the final shuttle to fly and is scheduled to be launched on July 8, 2011.

ENDEAVOUR == OV-105 … the youngest in the fleet, and by all accounts in very good shape “with quite a lot of life still left in her”, according to one NASA official. Endeavour will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. She completed her final mission on June 1, 2011, landing at KSC at 2:32 am. Endeavour was built as a replacement when The Challenger was lost in 1986 and joined the fleet in 1991.

Where were the shuttles built?
All five shuttles were built in Palmdale, California, south of Edwards Air Force Base where shuttles originally landed during test flights, and on the earliest missions, prior to construction of the SLF (shuttle landinf facility = runway) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Later Edwards, and White Sands, New Mexico, were backup landing sites, and both were occasionally used.

Unlike the original four shuttles, construction of the Endeavour was speeded by availablily of replacement parts for the first four shuttles. Strictly speaking, unlike the first four, Endeavour was not built from scratch.

ENTERPRISE = OV-101 == Isn’t New York City getting a shuttle? —
where did THAT shuttle come from?

New York is getting a shuttle, but then again, it isn’t. New York will get the shuttle, Enterprise, currently on display at the Smithsonian. Enterprise never flew in space, but did fly in Earth atmosphere in test flights. Enterprise will be moved to New York and placed on display there. It’s a shuttle, but it was never an operational shuttle that flew in space, unlike the other three surviving shuttles. The shuttle New York City will get was an important vehicle in the development of the shuttle; it’s not some cardboard cut-out dummy, and it came close to having a life of its own in space not once, but twice. An excellent telling of the Enterprise’s history, and how it nearly became an operation shuttle itself is HERE.

EXPLORER (Mockup) ==
Why didn’t Texas, with Mission Control located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, get a shuttle?

There were only so many to go around and the prevailing thought is: politics: Texas didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008.

The shuttle mockup, Explorer, began its trip to Houston on December 1, 2011. Its name was painted out prior to the move from the Kennedy Visitors Center.

Texas is, however, getting a shuttle mockup.

The Explorer, a high definition shuttle mockup built and on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center, is on its way to Houston. It was moved from the Visitors Center in Florida to Pad 39 Media Parking lot adjacent to the KSC turning basin on December 11, 2011.

It will be shipped by barge to Galveston, and then moved overland to the Johnson Space Center in Spring 2012.

OV-95 = SAIL The Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory Shuttle This was the first shuttle to “fly” although it never flew in space. OV-95 was an exact mechanical replica of the other shuttles and used both to test systems and to fly (on the ground in tandem) beginning with a shuttle lift-off. SAIL was located in Houston. When STS-135 landed, it was broken up, the wiring re-cycled and the remainder discarded.

PATHFINDER (mockup) == (unofficially OV-98) This mockup was used to test road clearances and other non-operational spacial issues related to how the shuttle could and would be moved. At various times, after its use, it was in Japan and Florida and today is in Alabama on display. More about the Pathfinder can be found HERE.

There is logic in where all of the shuttles are going
— but that logic only goes so far:

Endeavour: The shuttles were built just north of Los Angeles so they get Endeavour

Atlantis: the shuttles were launched from KSC so they get Atlantis

Discovery: The Smithsonian always gets the premier aircraft, as they should, so they get Discovery, the oldest survivor in the fleet.

And then there’s New York City.

How did they manage to get a shuttle, albeit not an operational shuttle? Three shuttles on the east coast and one on the west? None in the midwest? Well, New York DID vote for Obama in 2008 … and …

More on the OV (“Orbiter Vehicle”) designation number can be found HERE.

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Update: At about 12:15 pm, April 29, 2011, about three hours before scheduled launch the launch was scrubbed for mechanical reasons. Initially it was delayed for 48 hours, but by the evening of April 29, it was officially delayed for a minimum of 72 hours — and on Monday, it was re-scheduled to launch no early than the following Sunday afternoon, May 8, 2011. Still later it was pushed back still further.
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Launch Day, Friday April 29, 2011
5:30 am / celebration, fl — We have decided to get up early and head out to the cape in an attempt to beat the traffic. We have houseguests who arrived overnight — Andrew and Molly — who will be seeing their first launch. We have printed maps of Titusville, but since we have viewed launches only once from outside the press site, we are of little real help to them.

7 am, Friday April 29,2011. Although today's launch would eventually be scrubbed and re-scheduled, for most of the day it appeared to be going smoothly. Carol Anne who is photographing the launch is shown with the VAB is over her shoulder. The April 29 launch was scrubbed because of mechanical problems. High winds and other weather issues which had threatened the launch Thursday night and early Friday were no longer launch concerns by late Friday morning when the launch was scrubbed.

6:00 am / celebration, fl — We pile into Carol Anne’s car with food, tripods and computers and head across Highway 192 to Dunkin’ Donuts to provision. There are no lines. We both order a bagel and coffee and in moments we are on Highway 417. If all goes well and there is minimal traffic, we should make the cape in 40 minutes and then wait in a long line at the security gate on the 407. I’d like to be inside the media site and be set up at my workspace by 7:30 am.

6:15 am / route 417. I had figured we would monitor the NASA broadcast which began at 6:15 am. I have figured wrong. Instead we monitor the Royal Wedding on the BBC which is underway in London. Remarkably the happy couple is taking their vows at the moment we tune in. It’s not nearly as awful I expect and the music is okay.

6:25 am / Highway 528, the Beachline — Orlando toward Cocoa Beach. Scattered cars and traffic moving at its normal 75-80 mph. This road is virtually a chute with almost no exits. Traffic rockets unimpeded down this road for 30 or so miles. Piece of cake. No cops. Rain smatters as we approach the coast, but it is only a squawl and quickly gone. One construction zone. Uh-oh. They seem to be building another exit on the Beachline.

The Tweet Tent is now filled with Tweeters.

7:05 am / The causeway. Have seen only one cop since leaving the Beachline and heading north; traffic remains light. We pull into security behind only two cars and are quickly waved through. Security guys are of good cheer. We banter with them briefly.

7:15 am / arriving at media site 39-A / I follow signs into the media site overflow parking before I realize that[s nuts. At this hour I should be able to park in the main lot just below the media center. This matters. In the main parking lot we can use the car as a storage bin. In the overflow, it will be too far to go back and forth so we’ll have to haul everything in at once. Carol Anne waits at the security gate entrance to the media site and I sprint back to the overflow lot to get the car. Returning, I ask the guard at the main parking lot gate how long he has been on duty — 16 hours. He gets off at 10 — 10 am or 10 pm? I don’t ask. He’s dour. He is definitely not of good cheer.

In other missions with heavy media coverage, NASA has made the media park at some state park miles south on State Road 3 and then be bussed in, or carpool in with at least three others accredited to cover the event. This is a nightmare because everyone wants you to carpool with them, and you want others to carpool with you so you have your car as a storage bin. I am relieved that on this mission they are letting us drive in — life is much easier that way. I have been asking all week if this was how it would be and assured that it was.

Until I was waved through security, I didn’t really believe it. NASA security often changes its mind minute by minute.

7:20 am / media center main parking lot. I park the car in the far end of the media lot facing Pad 39-A. Now if we want, we can watch the launch from the car, although in this location getting out of the lot will be murder: we will be the last out if everyone leaves at the same time. But we don’t intend to leave with everyone else.

Tonight we’ll stay at the cape for three or four hours after the launch. That million or so people should be gone by then and we should be able to coast back to Orlando smoothly with little traffic. It really doesn’t occur to me that this mission will not go through through and launch on the first available window. It’s proceeding as smoothly as I have ever seen all week.

As for where to park in the media lot, it helps to have been here before and know where launch pad 39-A is in relation to the media site. Most others, I’m happy to see, are piling into all the wrong spots leaving the best parking spots (which look like the worst spots) to the veterans.

7:25 am / media center. I review the VIP list which lists everyone who is coming along with Obama. Huge list. Cynically I scan it for big donars figuring the launch offers Obama a big chance to fatten his campaign coffers and continue toward his goal of raising a billion dollars for his 2012 re-election campaign, but I can’t tell after studying the list. Obviously I do not know a lot of really rich people.

7:30 am / media center. I immediately run into Jim Seigel, Celebration Independent, Celebration’s newspaper reporter in the parking lot. He seems like he wants to talk, but I need to get inside and check out the signup sheets to see what special events might be in the offering (nothing interesting, it turns out, is). Seigel is always everywhere and I figure we’ll talk later. But I never see him for the rest of the day, although he says his work space, like mine, is in the Annex.

Seigel is blue, and for good reason. “They gave my regular workspace in the main media center away,” Seigel says forlornly, “and sent me to the
Annex.” Welcome to the big dance Jim — they did the same to me.

The Annex is strictly third world: To communicate my new workmates in the Annex I need to be fluent in German and Japanese and godknowswhatelese. Later in the day, I decide to converse in Mumble to someone speaking a language I do not recognize. Hand gestures and Mumble doesn’t work as badly as people might think.

7:32 am / media center. I sign Carol Anne and I up for the “walkout” at 10 am — this is not much of an event and even if I get off the wait list (unlikely) I’ll skip it. What happens is that the media stands outside the astronaut dormitory forever in a sort of alley and eventually the crew walks by, waves and gets into a van. That’s it. Never speeded up my heart any of the times I’ve soldiered over and seen it.

I long ago decided that this, like the arrival of the astronauts flying in and getting out of their planes on the tarmac at the SLF (shuttle landing facility: the runway), is a made-up event. NASA feels they have to feed the press something, even if it is nothing, every once in awhile.

I check the weather — we’re holding at a 70-percent chance of launch, same as yesterday. I’m 110-percent sure they’ll go, and go on time. The President is, after all, in town.

Tweeter Ryan Tombleson wore a shirt honoring Carl Sagan. Mr. Tombleson was one of the 150 successful TweetUp applicants. About 4,000 applied in the short 24-hour open period and 150 were randomly selected. Tweeters then went through security checks before being approved and invited officially to come. Like the media, they had to pay all their expenses.

7:35 am / media center. Carol Anne and I walk over to the Annex, and I move stuff off my work space (Scientific American had dumped some of his stuff on my workspace). I plug in my computer. I’m usually given two workspaces, even though Carol Anne is the photographer, but this time we only have one workspace. Carol Anne and I eat our bagels and then she heads back to the car to go to sleep.

I begin writing.

8:10 am / the media annex. I take a real look at the Annex and analyze. Air conditioning: good. Chairs: good. TV monitors keeping eye on lots of different stuff: good, including good sound. My workspace: small, but fine. Internet: good. Enough plugs for power: good. Having nothing to complaint about: not good. Journalists prefer to be in a perpetual grumble. I’m too busy. Something will piss me off later when I have more time than I do just now.

I look around one last time waiting for my computer to log in. I am in the second row at the front of the annex. I can easily monitor NASA updates which are being broadcast on monitors against the front wall. There are, like, 20 rows of work tables behind me with people who don’t have my access and view.

Cannot grump about location of my workspace either.

I’ll find something.

8:15 am / media annex. Launch clock shows 4 hours 6 minutes and 48 second to launch. That’s NASA speak, and only for pilgrims:

Based on this the shuttle would go at 12:20 pm or so. It won’t. In reality NASA builds lots of holds into a shuttle launch.

A 2.5 hour hold is planned to start at 9:22 am EDT which will be T-3 hours to launch.

The real world launch is still scheduled for 3:47 pm EDT.

The three hour hold is scheduled to resume at 11:52 am and countdown to T-20 minutes, then there will be another hold at 2:32 pm for ten minutes.

A final hold comes at T-9 minutes for 45 minutes which is scheduled for 2:53 pm EDT. This hold ends, and the countdown will resume, at 3:38:52 pm EDT if all is still on schedule.

Finally, the Endeavour will launch, if it makes its first available window, at 3:47:42 EDT.

I think. I check: At that very moment the International Space Station, the shuttle’s destination, will be 220 miles up, southeast of New Zealand.

That’s the roadmap for the day.

We’ll see how it goes.

Official Tweeter picture beside the giant clock. I considered joining the picture and drifted myself in the back row. But then the photographer didn't show up and I got bored. So I'm not in not in the Tweeter picture after all.

8:20 am / media annex. My workspace is a table with room for four on each side — eight per table, four people facing four people. A couple shows up to my right and sets up. She isn’t particularly friendly.

On my left is Asahi Shimbun which is, what? A Japanese newspaper. I’ll google them later. The Asahi reporter has been here because they have somethingorother plugged in that looks like a router — but why would they need a router? It must be something else.

The woman on my right has now plugged in her Macbook Pro, as has the guy on her right. A Mac babe? She cannot be all bad. She’s also plugged in her Flip Video Camera, which reminds me I have left mine in the car.

Space with her arrival has become tighter. I decide to visit the Tweeter tent, and pee. I also decide its time to finish Wednesday’s T-2 blog which is in a shambles and what is worse, it is taking lots of hits.

I consider adding a note to Wednesday’s blog that reads something like “I’m going to fix this — please come back later when this is not in shambles.”

I decide that’s pathetic.

9:15 am media annex. I’m back after my field trip. This place is really filling up.

I have first gone to the car where Carol Anne is napping where I got my Flip.

Then I headed for the TweetUp tent and along the way visited with several Tweeters. One woman from New Hampshire is a teacher and is tweeting for her students. She says her boyfriend entered her name in the lottery and when she got the email she thought it was a joke. He, of course, is no where to be seen. He didn’t get picked.

The snack mobile has shown up. If the snack mobile is here, it must be 9 am. Prices in the snack mobile are cheap. NASA must recognize that reporters are poor.

The TweetUp tent was abuzz. I had taken Flip video, and pictures from the identical places I took photos and video a couple of days ago so I can cut them together later (no people, lots of people, kind of thing).

Then I had looked over my shoulder and discovered cases of water. Never ever pass up water at a launch. I stuff two waters in my pants pockets. Uh-oh. My pants immediately southward. I stop. I set everything down and thighten my belt. Pants stabilize.

I drifted outside and followed the Tweeters over to the clock and realized this was going to be the official TweetUp picture. I pondered this and decided to be in the picture and position myself along the back. I have images of NASA people poring over the picture weeks from now identifying every Tweeter and countingt 151 Tweeters, not 150. I have imagines of panic! “Did we accredit one more than we thought?” I envision finger-pointing and shouting.”I didn’t do it!” “I’m not the one who mis-counted!” yaddadadda. And, of course, “who is THAT guy? Where did he COME from?

A NASA employee was addressing the Tweeters sternly. The tone of voice gets my attention, but it is not cause for concern. “Remember,” the voice is saying, “if you can’t see the camera, the camera can’t see you.”

I repositioned myself so I could see the camera if it ever would show up.

But then time passed — I got tired of waiting and headed around to the front to take a few pictures myself. Here, I ran into the same woman I spoke to at the Tweeter credential center on Wednesday. She doesn’t remember me at first (my animal magnetism is decades gone), but then decided she does remember me. We talk. She wears a neat pin and gives me one. I am a moocher. I play the “little children I know card” and she melts and hands me another pin.

My guess is she has a two pin mooch-limit.

Back at the main media center the snack truck has arrived. I decide I cannot stop because with the pins and the water and the cameras and other stuff I am packing like a Grand Canyon donkey, I simply have too much stuff to add a cup of coffee. Plus I’m heading into the media center to grab more loot. At the Boeing Desk I need to get Carol Anne a media notebook and some stickers, and pins.

Back finally in the media annex, I dump all the loot under my desk and decide I’d better update this launch day blog.

In one corner of the TweetUp Tent the tweeters can climb up a couple of stairs and have their picture taken as an Astronaut. There are instructions ...


... here are the instructions ...


... follow the instructions and here is your view.

I google my neighbor and discover that the Asahi Shimbun is widely regarded for its journalism as the most respected daily newspaper in Japan. So far their reporter hasn’t shown up but that is who he/she is. Heavy. If they speak English, I am going to find out a lot about the rent tsunami and the nuclear problems when he/she shows up.

11:36 am EDT / media annex. Whew. Finally finished Wednesday’s T-2 blog, although it has a ton of typos and lots has been left out that can included later, including great pictures inside the Discovery hangar (I later decide to include them toward the end of this post since there’s not enough room on the T-2 blog — so to see these pictures, scroll down).

NASA now has STS-134 on their planned 3 hour hold.

Carol Anne has returned from being at the car, saying she is wiped out. She has very little room to work because of our having having that a single work space.

This is the long straight — flat, little happening.

Carol Anne and I decide to fill the time by eating again. We buy a breakfast sandwich at the mobile van for $2.25 — at that price it is a bargain. But they have no coffee, only cold drinks. We decide to drink the iced water Boeing is giving away in the main press center. Nice bottles printed with the Boeing logo — bottles are made for runners.

I give her the reporter’s notebook I got for her courtesy of Boeing. It is, as always, packed with information and with each launch it gets fatter and more useful.

Pins & Earrings. I show Carol Anne a pin which the woman who helps manage the Tweeters has given me. I also show her another pin which commemorates the International Space Station which a different contractor is handing out. She asks, did I remember to get pins for the grandchildren, Cecelia and Calle? Yes — that’s what the two pins are meant for.

This seems fine.

But then she remembers that Calle ate one of her gold earrings awhile back, an earring that Carol Anne chose, ahem, not to recover.

Calle will not be seeing her STS-134 pins until she changes her dining habits, probably about the time she enters high school.

Now I confess to her about my nearly winding up in the Tweeter photo. Carol Anne says “you know, you really do have to stop doing things like that.”

“At least I don’t eat your earrings.”

Tweeter Jules Quesnell's boyfriend entered her in the lottery without her knowledge and she won. Her boyfriend did not. Ms. Quesnell runs the media center in an elementary school in New Hampshire. The excitement and enthusiasm of the tweeters was catching -- they were a great group to hang with.

Molly and Andrew and Polly and Wally — and Androlly. Andrew, Carol Anne’s son, and Molly, his soon wife-to-be, have been in touch. They left our home in Celebration, FL, about 8 am and because we have given them one of our turnpike passes have been able to whiz over to Titusville and the coast, avoiding the long lines at the toll booths. An hour or so ago they were arriving in Titusville and about to start searching for a place to watch the launch. Since then he has gone silent so we do not know where, if anywhere, he and Molly have managed to settle.

Since they have announced they were getting married, I have been busy working on names for the hoped for grandchildren. One generation-nexter we know is named Kim — and Kim married Jim, and they had children named Tim and a dog named Rin Tin Tin.

You see possibilities here?

I sure do.

Molly and Andrew could name their children Dolly or Holly or Polly or Wally or even Pollywolly — and if they were to have a surprise child, they could name her Golly.

Carol Anne sternly disapproves and is not amused.

I have had to hush up about this.

I have even had to stop referring to Andrew and Molly as a single entity, which currently they absolutely are: “Androlly.”

The secret about shuttle launches is it really doesn’t matter where you are.

We are able to watch them from our porch in Celebration, 40 miles away. In central they are hard to miss — they often come right over our house when landing. At the time of the Columbia tragedy in January 2007, I didn’t even bother to go to the cape, although I had credentials. I photographed the final Columbia liftoff from our second story porch in Celebration, Florida.

Nonetheless, everyone wants to get as close as they can and by being closer you will see the huge clouds of water vapor and the plums of smoke as the shuttle struggles off the pad.

Ya gotta see this thing closeup at least once in your lifetime.

11:40 am media annex. Carol Anne has gone outside to watch the astronauts pass in the van carrying them to launch pad 39-A. The van will pass within feet of the media site along the road. I had put her on the stand-by list to go out to the astronaut dorm and watch them pile into the van, but she had elected not to go. Covering something like that is a huge waste of time, but Carol Anne could have probably gone had she wished — she did not wish.

11:55 am / media annex. The table around me has filled up with the exception of the Japanese newspaper. Finding work space is confusing and more and more journalists are wandering around trying to figure it out. There are rows of tables with eight work spaces at each table, with blocks of plugs and ethernet cables in the middle. Four work spaces on one side face four work spaces on the other.

But the work space numbers are confusing. I have work space 15 in the Annex. The work space numbers are 12-16 on my side of the table, but just across from me, on the other side of the table, the numbers of the work spaces are in the 40s. No one can figure this out, and it has gotten worse because now most numbers on the work spaces are covered up by computers and occasionally by people sitting in the wrong space or slopping over onto adjoining work spaces. Reporters are wandering everywhere lost.

Across from me the Scientific American guy was arrived. A German newspaper reporter is diagonically across from me, screaming at someone giving them instructions to the Lansing, Michigan airport. He seems mental and vaguely dangerous.

Two days before the scheduled launch NASA invited the media to several sites rarely visited by the general media, including Pad 39-B which is being re-purposed to other uses. Among the spacecraft that have lifted off this pad were Apollo 10, the final mission before the United States landed on the Moon, and the ill-fated Shuttle Challenger mission in 1986 in which all astronauts aboard died when the shuttle exploded less than two minutes after launch.

The Columbia and the reporter who saw it break up. To my right, the other woman from a scientific magazine has returned and is in a chatty mood now that she has completed her filings.

She lives in Boulder, Colorado. So did I years ago. We talk about Boulder.

She free lances, but before that was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. One of my reporters, who I hired right out of journalism school in Oklahoma for one of my newspapers, eventually became an editor there. She’s never heard of him.

We drift into talking about the Columbia disaster. She had been in Dallas and had gone outside to watch the Columbia pass overhead. It was a Saturday morning. I ask her if she knew what she was seeing.

“I knew,” she says.

We pause.

We speak no more of it.

Cynics all, but among our own kind. One of the best things about covering major events is that journalists are among their own people — cynical, curious and in possession of lots of information that can never show up in print or on TV because it cannot be vetted sufficiently to present as truth.

When a shuttle returned from space, it was towed back to its hangar. But a shuttle hangar was unlike any you've seen before. In fact, the hangars weren't even called hangars -- they were called Oribiter Processing Facilities or OPF. Inside all this steelwork is the shuttle Discovery on April 27, 2011, after her final mission to space. Discovery was to fly only once more in February 2012. She was to fly on top of a 747 to Dulles Airport where, outside of Washington, she was to be displayed at the Smithsonian museum at Dulles Airport.

Earlier in the week I had been visiting with an Arizona reporter and had asked about the Congresswoman who was shot by a constituent in Tucson. “How’s she really doing?” I had asked him. He had told his newspaper’s take.

I have discovered that at our work table in the annex almost everyone else is covering their first launch. I always used to hate it when old-timers (like I am becoming) used to start blabbering about the good old days and about how far they go back in covering NASA and how much they knew. Geech. Well, now almost nobody goes back anywhere as far as I do, and I keep quiet about it. But surprisingly, I am being drawn about about those earlier days today and being asked questions about it. No problem if you want to know.

Then a woman decides she needs to find a bathroom and a guy wants to go to the cafeteria across the street. Do I know any bathrooms where a woman might not have to stand in a long lines forever? It happens that I do. I know where the secret bathrooms are — and I tell her. She vanishes.

And the cafeteria, the guy asks? You bet — I tell him where to find it, but after rising, he pauses, wondering, “do they have tofu at the cafeteria?”

Tofu? TOFU??

Who is NASA letting in the press site these days?

This is the front of Discovery, viewed from below, with the front wheelwell open and the front wheel just out of view in the bottom center of the picture. The black in the middle is Discovery's very front, the nose cone.

12:15 pm / media annex. I watch on the monitors as the van of astronauts is passing just outside. A reporter across the desk from me puts down his headphones. “It’s off,” he said. “It’s scrubbed. It’s over for the day.”

The news is electric. Was it weather? The winds have been high all morning. “I think so,” the guy says. “I don’t know.”

12:20 pm / media site.I go outside to find Carol Anne who is watching the astronaut van. She tells me the van was passing and then abruptly pulled off into he VAB parking lot. “What’s up?” she asks.

12:21 pm / media site. Standing outside still we call Andrew and Molly. They have just paid $15 moments earlier at a recreation site in Titusville and will have a great view of the launch. “There’s not going to be a launch today — it’s scrubbed.”

12:50 pm / media center. A press conferecne on what happened is scheduled for 1 pm but we can listen to it on satellite radio in the car. Thank god that wedding is over. I check the next open launch dates — as of now they will launch no earlier than 3 pm Sunday afternoon.

I ask what happened and get a detailed explanation of the innards of how they keep the hydaulic lines heated in space and why they have triple redundancy. Without these lines landing would be in jeopardy.

The future is America's spaceport is uncertain. Replacements for the shuttle have been funded, and then defunded several times and now the United States will have no way back to the International Space Station, largely built with American taxpayer money, without catching a ride on the Russian knockoff of the shuttle. Carol Anne looks out at the marshlands adjacent to the shuttle landing strip on Wednesday afternoon, April 29, 2011.

We decide to leave. I’m betting we can get fairly far down the road before the 700,000 to a million people on the highways figure out it is over. NASA just now is hinting that the mission is scrubbed publicly. If we don’t get ahead of the crowds, the 40-minute ride back to Orlando will table about 4 hours.

12:55 pm / leaving media site. We’re on the road and the roads are empty. Sirius radio is not broadcasting the NASA press feed, or at least I cannot find it. The press conference on what happened is — surprise of surprises — delayed until later in the afternoon anyway.

1:04 pm / the causeway, drawbridge. We hit the crowd, slow and finally stop. I put the car in park and begin to wait.

4:10 pm / celebration, fl. Carol Anne, now driving, pulls off the 417 into Celebration and we’re home. Andrew and Molly are about a half hour behind us.

7 pm / celebration, fl. We learn NASA has re-scheduled the launch for no earlier than 3 pm Monday. Andrew and Molly will have to head north on Sunday and will miss it. Carol Anne and I will have to re-scramble and re-schecdule, if possible, the obligations and travel which were planned beginning Monday for all of next week. We will stay until the shuttle is launched — that is a given. And we will be here when STS-134 returns from space about 16 days after launch.

We expect about 1/3 to 1/2 of the 1,500 reporters at Kennedy Space Center on Friday will be unable to return. Most were aying their own way and stringing for the publications for which they were accredited.

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Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, and Peter Michael Crow hold the copyrights © 2011 to all content of this blog.

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Landing sequence, 11:57 am, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, Kennedy Space Center
North end of Landing Facility — the Shuttle Discovery is landing from north to south in 22 mph winds directly on nose.

Photograph 01


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Photograph 5

photographs by petecrow, © 2011, Seine/Harbour® Productions, Studio City, California

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